Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 9

January 29, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Temperatures across the state may fall below zero Wednesday and Thursday, but things are expected to warm up significantly by this weekend – and Michigan high school boys basketball will follow.

Conference champions are starting to be crowned, the Detroit Public School League Tournament begins this week and Saturday offers another major showcase of MHSAA title hopefuls facing off.

Breslin Bound is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at To offer corrections or fill in scores we’re missing, email me at [email protected].

Week in Review 

The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:  

1. Detroit U-D Jesuit 70, Flint Beecher 69 – Division 1 Jesuit handed the second loss this season to Division 3 Beecher in a matchup of teams that could both end this season hoisting MHSAA Finals trophies.

2. Detroit Edison 77, Benton Harbor 68 – The reigning Class C champ and another Division 3 contender, Edison, handed reigning Class B champ and Division 2 power Benton Harbor its first defeat.

3. Wyoming Potter’s House Christian 85, Marcellus Howardsville Christian 69 – Potter’s House also is earning attention in Division 3, in this one handing Division 4 contender Howardsville Christian its first loss.

4. Saginaw Swan Valley 61, Alma 60 (OT) – Swan Valley moved into a tie with Alma for first in the Tri-Valley Conference Central by handing the Panthers their first loss in league and overall.

5. Hudsonville 45, Rockford 39 – The Eagles, 10-12 a season ago, moved into first place alone in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red by sending the Rams into second.

Watch List

With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:


• Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern (14-0) – After back-to-back seasons of finishing 16-8 and winning District titles, Forest Hills Northern may be on the verge of a few more steps up. A 64-53 win over Grand Rapids Northview on Friday put the Huskies in first alone in the O-K White, and they also have wins over O-K Red leader Hudsonville (by 23) and O-K Green second-place Holland Christian (by 12).

• Mount Pleasant (12-0) – The Oilers followed their Class A Semifinal appearance in 2014 with a sub-.500 record the following season, but have upped their win total every season since and are closing in on surpassing last year’s 18 victories. They sit atop the Saginaw Valley League Red and posted an impressive 56-44 win over Orchard Lake St. Mary’s last week at Saginaw Valley State.


• Marine City (10-2) – Marine City has clinched outright the Macomb Area Conference Bronze championship, its first league title in 34 years. All but one of its wins have been by double digits – and the losses were in overtime by a point to St. Clair in early December and two weeks ago to Blue Water Area Conference leader and one-loss Richmond.

• New Haven (13-1) – The Rockets, Class B semifinalists last season and the champions in 2017, have taken the first step on another run by clinching the MAC White championship with Friday’s 64-37 win over second-place Warren Mott. An opening-night victory over U-D Jesuit remains impressive, and New Haven’s lone loss – by five to Roseville on Dec. 4 – keeps looking better as the Panthers are 13-1.


• Saginaw Valley Lutheran (12-1) – Valley Lutheran this week can guarantee surpassing last season’s 13-8 record, and has been climbing in a big way. Ten wins are by double digits – including a 48-38 overtime victory over Ithaca two weeks ago that put the Chargers in first alone in the TVC West. The lone defeat came against TVC Central co-leader Swan Valley.

• Wyoming Potter’s House Christian (12-1) – The Pumas have won outright or shared six straight league championships, and they hold a half-game lead in the Alliance League again after beginning last week by handing Tri-unity Christian its first conference loss, 54-53. As noted above, Potter’s House followed with a big win over Howardsville, which entered last week unbeaten and outscoring opponents by 42 points per game.


• Big Rapids Crossroads (12-1) – A 53-47 win Thursday over then co-leader Manistee Catholic Central put Crossroads in first alone in the West Michigan D League and avenged an earlier 10-point defeat to MCC. Crossroads finished 7-15 just a year ago, but has eight wins this season by double digits.

• Martin (8-1) – The Clippers are one of three teams tied for first in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore, with Division 3 Fennville and Division 2 Coloma, and after falling to Fennville on Jan. 11. Martin’s next win will give this team just as many as when it finished 9-13 a year ago, and seven of the first eight this winter have been by double figures.

Can't-Miss Contests

Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:  

Tuesday – Walled Lake Northern (14-0) at Milford (10-3) – The Mavericks can’t climb into first place by beating Lakes Valley Conference leader Northern, but second-place Waterford Mott could slip into a tie for the top spot in that scenario.

Wednesday – Traverse City St. Francis (7-2) at Elk Rapids (8-2) – St. Francis leads the Lake Michigan Conference by a game over the Elks, with this the first of two meetings scheduled.

Saturday – Muskegon (9-3) vs. Grand Blanc (9-4) at Grand Rapids Union – This Redhawk Showcase game pits the SVL Blue-leading Bobcats against a Big Reds team on a five-game winning streak.  

Saturday – Kalamazoo Central (9-1) vs. Grand Rapids Christian (10-2) at Grand Rapids Union – The Maroon Giants lead the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East, and the Eagles are tied for first in the O-K Gold.

Saturday – Benton Harbor (14-1) vs. Ypsilanti Lincoln (10-1) at Grand Rapids Union – The 6 p.m. Redhawk Classic game might be the best featuring the reigning Class B champ and a Division 1 title hopeful led by one of the nation’s top freshman.

Second Half’s weekly “Breslin Bound” reports are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Student Financial Services Bureau located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information, including various student financial assistance programs to help make college more affordable for Michigan students. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 savings programs (MET/MESP) and eight additional aid programs within its Student Scholarships and Grants division. Click for more information and connect with MI Student Aid on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

PHOTO: Goodrich downed Lake Fenton 57-48 on Jan. 18 and remains a game off the lead in the Genesee Area Conference Red. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)

Championship Experience from Coach's Point of View Unimaginable, Unforgettable

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

April 4, 2024

WYOMING – As the final buzzer sounded, it was all I could’ve imagined – and more.

West Michigan

In the weeks leading up to March 16 and the Division 4 championship game, I experienced every emotion possible as I envisioned what it would feel like to be an assistant coach on the bench at Michigan State’s Breslin Center as the Wyoming Tri-unity Christian boys basketball team achieved its ultimate goal.

In my first year as the junior varsity coach at Tri-unity, I had been on the varsity bench for a majority of the season, assisting legendary coach Mark Keeler and fellow assistants Brent Voorhees, Bob Przybysz and Mike Kaman.

I was there encouraging, motivating and supporting the varsity team. It was a role I embraced, and had become accustomed to over my almost 30 years coaching high school basketball.

I started coaching in 1995 as Jim Ringold gave me my first opportunity as the freshmen girls coach at Wyoming Kelloggsville High School. I would then coach Kelloggsville’s freshmen boys team for eight seasons, while also coaching the freshmen girls at Grandville High School. I would also coach the junior varsity teams at both schools.

I love coaching. I have a passion for it. I’ve always enjoyed getting the most out of my players while creating a bond between player and coach.

When girls basketball season moved from fall to winter joining the boys in 2007-08, I stayed at Grandville. I spent 21 seasons there before stepping down.

I still wanted to coach, and I heard that the Tri-unity junior varsity position was available. I had always respected and liked Keeler and was excited for the prospect of joining a perennial powerhouse.

I didn’t really know about Tri-unity growing up in the Wyoming Park school district. But as a young kid, I would rush home and eagerly await the afternoon delivery of the Grand Rapids Press. I would quickly find the sports page and read it from front to back, hoping one day to see my byline.

I began writing for the Press’ sports department in 1997. It was my dream job. And that’s also when I first started covering Tri-unity boys basketball.

I remember watching eventual NBA all-star Chris Kaman, along with Bryan Foltice and others play for this little Christian school and have unbridled success under Keeler.

MHSAA Tournament runs became the norm for the Defenders. They won their first Finals title in 1996, and they would claim four more over the next 26 years. They also had six runner-up finishes.

Tri-unity’s assistant coaches, including Holzwarth (second from right), monitor the action.I was sitting on media row writing for in 2022 when Brady Titus led Tri-unity to its fifth state championship.

I never thought that two years later I would be on the coaching staff as the Defenders pursued another one. But there I was.

I knew this year’s team had the potential to be special.

Tri-unity had returned four of its five starters from a year ago, after suffering a heart-breaking two-point loss to Munising in the Division 4 Final.

Eight seniors were on the roster. The team had a mix of talented guard play, senior leadership, size and depth. We had shooters and we played great defense, a trademark of Keeler’s teams.

This was the year, and that heaped lofty expectations on Keeler and the team. It was basically “state championship or bust.” Anything less would be considered a disappointment.

Keeler wanted it badly, and I knew the players did as well. I think they felt the pressure at times of living up to the expectations that had been set.

We had several lopsided wins, but also had a few tough losses to Division 2 and Division 3 teams – Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, Wyoming Lee, Grandville Covenant Christian and Schoolcraft – all talented teams that I think made us better despite falling short.

As the postseason started, there was anxiety and excitement.

We were one of the favorites, but it wouldn’t be easy. We would have to earn each of the seven victories needed to win it all.

First came a District title, but then we had to play a quality Fowler team in its home gym in the Regional Semifinal. This was a game we knew would be a challenge – and it was.

We led by only one at halftime after a 7-0 run to end the second quarter. The score was tied 33-33 in the fourth quarter before senior Lincoln Eerdmans made a key 3-pointer to spark our victory.

As we went through the handshake line, several Fowler players said, “Good luck in the Finals.”

Our defense played extremely well in the Regional Final and state Quarterfinal to secure our team another trip to the Breslin.

St. Ignace was our opponent in the Semifinal, and we had to face a senior guard who could do it all – Jonny Ingalls. He lived up to the hype. He was good, and we didn’t have any answer for him in the first half. We trailed by one, only to fall behind by seven late in the third quarter.

Was this the end? Were we going to fall one game short of our goal?

Holzwarth and the coaching staff greet Keaton Blanker (4) as he comes off the floor. We were down by five points in the fourth quarter, but junior guard Keaton Blanker, and others, rose to the occasion. We rallied to win a tight one, and now we were one win away from a Division 4 title.

The night before the championship game, we stayed at a hotel in East Lansing as we had the first game of the day at 10 a.m. We had a team dinner, and the players seemed relaxed and eager to close out the season the way they had intended.

There was one thing that worried me. We were playing Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart. A team we had played in the second game of the season and defeated by 30 points.

Would we be overconfident? I had no idea. They were a different team now, but so were we. Anything could happen.

Keeler gave a spirited and emotional pregame speech. In last year’s loss to Munising, he felt like the team played not to lose, and this season his big thing was “I want to win.” He said it to every starter that Saturday morning during the final moments in the locker room before tipoff, asking all five individually to say it back – which they did, the first one quietly but followed by teammates replying louder and louder as everyone got fired up and “I want to win” rang through the locker room. I think it inspired all of us.

After a competitive first quarter, we started to find our rhythm and expanded the lead. We were ahead by double-digits at the half, and a state title was within our grasp. Senior Wesley Kaman buried a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the third quarter to give us a 20-point cushion. It was at that point I knew we were going to win.

All five starters reached double-figure scoring, led by Jordan VanKlompenberg with 19 points and Owen Rosendall with 14. That balance was intentional and a successful sign for our team all season.

The exhilaration of winning was intoxicating. I loved watching the boys celebrate something they had worked so hard to accomplish. I will never forget their faces. I looked to my right from my seat on the bench and watched them running onto the court, just wearing their joy. They were just elated.

I was so happy for Keeler, a devout Christian who is respected by so many people in high school basketball circles. I learned so much from him this season. The way he approaches each game, his competitiveness. He instills his strong faith in his players and understands that the game of basketball is a bridge to a higher purpose.

Keeler is the fourth-winningest coach in state boys basketball history with a record of 694-216, and will be the winningest active coach next winter as all-time leader Roy Johnston retired from Beaverton at the end of this season.

The tournament run was one of the best coaching experiences I have had, and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of a state championship season.

Dean HolzwarthDean Holzwarth has covered primarily high school sports for Grand Rapids-based WOOD-TV for five years after serving at the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years along with shorter stints at the Ionia Sentinel and WZZM. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties. 

PHOTOS (Top) The Wyoming Tri-unity Christian bench, including the author (far right) and head coach Mark Keeler (middle), celebrate a 3-pointer late in the Defenders’ Division 4 championship win over Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart. (Middle) Tri-unity’s assistant coaches, including Holzwarth (second from right), monitor the action. (Below) Holzwarth and the coaching staff greet Keaton Blanker (4) as he comes off the floor. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)